What It's Like to Die from Ebola

Death from Ebola is a terrifying possibility. If left untreated, the disease has a fatality rate around 90%. Even if you are treated in time, you only have up to a 50% chance of surviving the Ebola virus. But the high mortality rate isn't the worst part. It's the gruesome details of how you die that makes the deadly virus so horrifying.

There are five strains of Ebola, four of which can make you sick. It was first discovered fairly recently, in 1976. Since then, there have been 33 recorded outbreaks. The most deadly one came in 2014 in West Africa. The disease started in Guinea during that tragic outbreak, and spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. During the outbreak, 28,646 people were infected and 11,323 died.

Unless you're traveling to an area where the virus is present, chances are slim that you'll catch the Ebola virus yourself. But if you want to learn more about this dreadful disease, keep reading.

  • You'll Probably Be Infected By Feces

    You'll Probably Be Infected By Feces
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Ebola is fairly difficult to get. It is only communicable via fluids, unlike airborne diseases like influenza, so the transmission rate is pretty low. It is possible to get Ebola from an infected bat, monkey, or chimp, but chances are you'll get it from bodily waste.

    Transmission generally occurs by direct contact with an infected person, their fluids, or something contaminated by them. That means blood, vomit, or feces, with the last being the most common culprit. That's why outbreaks of Ebola typically occur in places with inadequate sanitation standards, such as a lack of indoor plumbing. Unless you are actively handling Ebola patients or their bodies, an infected outhouse is the most likely source of your infection.

    The incubation period for the disease can last up to 21 days, so you have that long after being infected before you start to notice anything wrong.

  • It Starts With A Fever

    It Starts With A Fever
    Photo: CDC Global Health / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    When you wake up with a fever hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, your first impulse is to think you have the flu. As that fever climbs to 102, and then 104, you begin to question the flu diagnosis. If you are in one of the places where Ebola outbreaks typically occur, you'll start to wonder if you have malaria. Once malaria tests come back negative, it's time to consider other, more frightening, possibilities.

  • Then Comes The Uncontrollable Diarrhea

    Then Comes The Uncontrollable Diarrhea
    Photo: EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    "Uncontrollable" is not a word to be taken lightly. At this point, your bowel control is nonexistent, and you have to rely on others to clean you up. Sadly, this is one of the primary ways that Ebola spreads: through contact with infected bodily fluids.

  • And The Dehydrating Vomiting

    And The Dehydrating Vomiting
    Photo: United Nations Development Programme / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Between constant vomiting and diarrhea, you are rapidly becoming dehydrated. Your potassium levels are also dropping. If you're being treated by doctors, they will hook you up to an I.V. to get some fluids into you.